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*** UPDATED x1 *** Enviro leader criticizes governor

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2020

* Illinois Environmental Council executive director Jen Walling wrote a piece for her members about Gov. JB Pritzker’s first year in office. While much of it was laudatory, some was clearly not. I’ve taken out the praise and posted some of the criticisms

While I am appreciative for the improvements made by Gov. Pritzker, it is my responsibility to provide an honest assessment of our progress and the opportunities missed along the way. And while it is uncomfortable for me to admit, the truth is that those of us who care about protecting our environment are eager to see more action from the governor on his environmental commitments. I hope my comments are taken in the spirit they are meant: to provide transparency to the governor as a partner who shares our values and the people of Illinois who depend on us to advance policies that protect our communities and environment. […]

Unfortunately, 2019 fell short on energy issues despite the urgency of climate change. Illinois remains one of the only Democratically controlled state to not advance major clean energy legislation. The governor has yet to back the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a demonstration of leadership that would move the bill forward in the legislative process. Although he has announced that energy issues will be taken up in 2020, he has failed to name clean energy among his top priorities in recent interviews reflecting on his plans for this year. It is time for Gov. Pritzker to take action on climate change and leave dirty, corrupt energy companies in the past.

The governor missed an opportunity to stand up to President Trump by choosing not to adopt clean car standards before the repeal of the federal waiver. California, along with 13 other states have already adopted a LEV/ZEV standard, and Minnesota and New Mexico initiated the process in the wake of Trump’s actions. Illinois would have been one of the largest car markets to adopt these standards, meaning that more electric cars would be produced and sold. Gov. Pritzker’s IEPA has also failed to revise the Rauner Administration’s plan for the VW emissions scandal settlement. Without changes, our state will dedicate $18.6M – over 17% of the total – towards fossil fuel technology, the third highest of all states receiving the money.

In addition to reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned in Illinois, we must commit to keeping dirty fuel sources in the ground. Unfortunately, the Pritzker administration issued a permit on the dirty and dangerous Bull Dog Mine permit and is currently considering approving a permit to pump wastewater from Pond Creek Mine into the Big Muddy River. Instead of tying us to industry in decline that has a long history of polluting and then abandoning communities, Governor Pritzker should focus on building for the future.

That Bull Dog Mine permit languished for nearly a decade before being approved by the Pritzker administration.

Go read the rest if you want to see the praise.

…Adding… Related…

* Dems swept the Midwest. Why hasn’t it helped clean energy?: “Energy certainly isn’t Gov. Pritzker’s priority,” said Howard Learner, the longtime head of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest environmental advocacy group.

*** UPDATE *** The Pond Creek Mine permit she wrote about has been approved by IDNR

Williamson Energy last month was granted the first of two application approvals for its Pond Creek Mine pipeline, which, if also approved by the Illinois EPA, would dump millions of gallons of mine wastewater into the Big Muddy River.

On Dec. 5, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources rendered its final verdict on Williamson Energy’s application, approving the development of more than 70 acres to construct a pipeline from its Franklin County Pond Creek Mine to the Big Muddy River. The company says it needs to pump seep water from mine shafts to ensure the safety of miners, according to public documents. These documents also show that before being diluted in holding ponds, the water will contain high levels of chlorides and sulfates.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - PJS - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 10:36 am:

    Good for Jen for calling it like she shes it.

  2. - Klaus von Bülow - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 10:38 am:

    She writes:
    I hope my comments are taken in the spirit

    We will see how that goes… Anxiously awaiting public hits.

  3. - Chuck Landroix - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 10:42 am:

    former chief-of-staff for Senator Steans.

  4. - Anon For Now - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 10:45 am:

    Jen’s precise about the language she uses. Had a chuckle at the “leave dirty, corrupt energy companies in the past.”

  5. - Clover - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 10:47 am:

    Clean Energy & Enviro Leader.

  6. - LSU #1 - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    The Governor has also unabashedly indicated that the State’s business climate is a Tier 1 priority. The two will not always intersect. Comes with the territory.

    The Enviros pushing for more than a pragmatic Governor can do isn’t unexpected.

  7. - Moe Berg - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    Perhaps the reason the governor hasn’t endorsed the Clean Energy Jobs Act is because he knows, despite its name and the representations of its proponents, that it does a lot less for getting renewable projects built than the Path to 100 bill.

    Maybe he also was given pause because he knows that Exelon/ComEd had done a pretty decent job of co-opting the green groups and an alleged consumer advocacy organization. These folks are casting stones about “corrupt energy companies” from a glass house.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    Partisan and pointed criticism for a lobbying arm is standard.

    I’d be more interested if these thoughts were shared with the administration *before* the public or if everyone is reading this at the same time.

  9. - Ok - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:06 am:

    Is this a dog bites man story or a man bites dog story?

  10. - Norville Rogers - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:15 am:

    Kudos to Governor Pritzker for not being beholden to to a fringe political group. Endorsing a candidate isn’t a quid pro quo to pass your agenda, even if you are from the same political party. Refreshing.

  11. - Eric - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:18 am:

    Shaming the governor a little bit. That is a bold strategy. I suppose it might create some grass roots pressure on his left flank. But the folks that make up the JB braintrust aren’t likely to dismiss this as mere show business by a advocacy group engaged in constituent management. I think they’ll take it personally.

    With their “zero emitting” friends at Exelon forced to the sidelines for now, the enviro’s path to passing a bill has become muddled. Not sure poking the guv is the right way to make new friends.

  12. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:22 am:

    ===a fringe political group===


    The IEC has been the most trusted enviro group in this state for decades. Go soak your head.

  13. - Norville Rogers - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:44 am:

    The IEC is a front group for less savory actors. Consider my head soaked.

  14. - Centennial - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    I don’t see CEJA passing without the “dirty corrupt energy companies” And I don’t see legislators falling all over themselves to bail out “dirty corrupt energy companies” right now.

    So instead of taking a breath and realizing the political realities, Jen is publicly criticizing an ally. She has also backed herself into a corner. If the utilities are eventually brought into the fold on CEJA - she is then in a position to have to cut a deal with the “dirty, corrupt energy companies.”

    Interesting legislative strategy. Let’s see how this works out for her.

  15. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    All the states that signed on to the ZEV mandate have no auto assembly presence (with the exception of California which has Tesla - an obvious benefactor of the ZEV mandate). Last I checked, Illinois still makes Jeep Cherokees and Ford Explorers. Good on Pritzker on not listening to the enviros on this one.

  16. - Ok - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:50 am:

    IEC as a “front group” is one of my favorite conspiracy theories.

    Either some people believe that, which is hilarious. Or they think that if they say it enough that other people will believe that, which is also hilarious.

  17. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:52 am:

    ==The IEC is a front group for less savory actors==

    Such as: Citizens Utility Board, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Faith in Place, Natural Resources Defense Council, Prairie Rivers Network,Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy…etc.

    Might want to go for another soak.

  18. - ILPundit - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 11:58 am:

    “That’s a bold strategy Cotton. Lets see if it pays of for them.”

    —Dodgeball (2004)

  19. - levivotedforjudy - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 12:33 pm:

    If the last session didn’t have so much big stuff (cannabis, capital bill, casinos, etc…) CEJA was poised to pass in 2020. It had tons of co-sponsors and bi-partisan support. You even had ComEd and the environmental lobby working together…..and then the raids, subpoenas and indictments started. It still might, but ComEd/Exelon need to stay away from it and let the environmental lobby take the lead and the credit for it.

  20. - Lefty Lefty - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 12:34 pm:

    I’m reducing my 9 rating yesterday to an 8.

    Also — climate change denialism really hacks me off.

  21. - walker - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 1:16 pm:

    If IEC is a “front group,” we need more of them. Jen Walling is a real master at herding highly-motivated, independent-thinking groups toward potential solutions.

  22. - SpfdNewb - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 1:21 pm:

    Chicagonk, did you forget about Rivian? Their manufacturing center is in Normal, IL.

  23. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 2:53 pm:

    More background-

  24. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 3:10 pm:

    If this wasn’t run by the 2nd floor in advance of it’s release then it seems to be a mistake, especially with all the access to the Guv’s staff that has been afforded to the environmental community.

    Wonder what the over 500 workers who lost their jobs in coal plants due to shut downs caused in part by language in a Pollution Control Board decision would have to say about this. Would be interesting to know how many of those laid off workers are employed in the Renewable Energy industry with jobs paying more than $40/hour with full benefits.

  25. - nadia - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 3:12 pm:

    Sorry, the anonymous post at 3:10 pm was me, forgot to fill in the nickname box.

  26. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 3:43 pm:

    ==Wonder what the over 500 workers who lost their jobs in coal plants due to shut downs caused in part by language in a Pollution Control Board decision would have to say about this.==

    Those jobs have been in decline for years; they are going away. We can help workers move forward into the green economy or we can prop up declining industries and they will be left in the dust when the green economy jobs end up elsewhere. Preserving the environment and, maybe, leaving it in better shape than we got it seems like a good thing as well.

  27. - honeybadger - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 3:55 pm:

    Uh, though the IEC maybe “the most trusted enviro group in the state” that apparently is not a very high bar. Remember how they reneged on the deal they struck on the fracking legislation?

  28. - Senator Clay Davis - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 4:15 pm:

    ==If this wasn’t run by the 2nd floor in advance of it’s release==

    I would think it was. Jen is pretty astute, and the enviros saw blowback from criticizing Pritzker too harshly last session. I’d be surprised if they did it without forewarning at minimum. Also, note the lack of response by the Governor’s office to her statement.

    In any case, the Governor and every member of the Assembly that would’ve voted for CEJA dodged a major bullet when the decision was made not to run an energy bill. Had something passed, it would’ve been LOADED with goodies and subsidies for ComEd. Wouldn’t exactly look good now.

  29. - statehoss - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 4:33 pm:

    The capital bill did finally get CREATE moving, which will have a big impact on METRA and Amtrak.

    The problem being that much of the impact will hit only after final completion, so we’re still a phase or two behind. And at least one gubernatorial term.

  30. - Veil of Ignorance - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 4:36 pm:

    If the Governor is trying to line up his 2024 or 2028 plans, then he’s going to need to address this and make the enviros happy. On top of that, I’d like for us not to go extinct due to climate change…so there’s that too.

  31. - VerySmallRocks - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 4:47 pm:

    The challenge is, regardless of the lobbying scandal, will ComEd/Exelon overplay their hand and demand another $200 mil (or more) beyond 2026 as the price of unlocking their captive legislators, or will they pull their horns in for a lower amount. I can’t see them simply not demanding anything, I hope I’m wrong.

  32. - Oh, please.... - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 4:59 pm:

    @honeybadger, get your facts straight. Maybe you or the interest you represented didn’t get what you wanted in the end, but the finished product of the fracking negotiations was an agreement between the environmentalists, industry and the AG’s office which provided for strict regulations for a previously unregulated industry in Illinois. At that point, the IEC was just beginning to flex its muscle and this was a major victory for the environment at the time.

    Note, though, times have dramatically changed. With the utilities’ lobbying power uncertain as the 2020 session begins, the addition of many new legislators who have environmental protection at the top of their agendas, and concern about climate change polling off the charts, I expect the IEC and its allies will be be calling the shots rather than the utilities on any clean energy bill that passes this session. There is a real opportunity to do something big here. The Governor should ensure that his office is a part of making it happen, because the voters of this blue state are demanding major action on climate - they won’t settle for inaction.

  33. - nadia - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 5:17 pm:

    “Pot Calling Kettle Black”, I agree leaving the environment in better shape than when we got it is a good thing.

    But, please tell me what Green Economy Jobs “we” can locate that pay similar wages and benefits to the jobs lost.

  34. - nadia - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 5:19 pm:

    Madigan and Cullerton had a lot to do with CEJA not moving, makes one wonder what they may have known.

    Hypothetically, would JB have signed the legislation if it hit his desk?

  35. - DuPage - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 5:49 pm:

    ===Dems swept the Midwest. Why hasn’t it helped clean energy?: “Energy certainly isn’t Gov. Pritzker’s priority,” said Howard Learner, the longtime head of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest environmental advocacy group.===

    Comed has more money to spend on keeping competition out then the wind energy/clean line companies.

  36. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 15, 20 @ 9:49 pm:

    The IEC did back out of fracking deal and immediately introduced changes before the ink was dry.

    Jen references the VW settlement that she helped negotiate. Now she wants the Governor to pull out of the deal?

    Why cut any deal with her when she quickly flips to try and change the deal?

    Also, she’s far overstepped at the EPA where she threatens and hassles staff like they work for her.

  37. - TheFox - Thursday, Jan 16, 20 @ 6:54 am:

    Why hasn’t Pritzker named Jen Walling IEPA Director?

  38. - captain obvious - Thursday, Jan 16, 20 @ 1:19 pm:

    Funny to read the commenters here and see the same fabricated anti-enviro talking points they post under different names on every CapFax story. Their song and dance is so predictable that they may as well have signed their real names. Hi guys.

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